Tuesday, June 21, 2016

What's in a name?

Sermon for Pentecost 5, Proper 7C, preached on Sunday, June 19, 2016.

    Names are not unimportant or incidental.  Names are the doors through which we know others and they know us.  Names are keys to community.  God makes Himself known to us by giving us His name, first to Moses to lead the people from slavery to freedom in the promised land and then to Jesus to leave us from slavery to freedom and then in baptism to mark us as the sons and daughters of God, freed from sin’s death in Christ to serve Him in all righteousness.
    Names are important.  The demons know Jesus by name and that names strikes fear in the demons.  Even demons have names.  In the Gospel for today Jesus is called by name by a demon and He calls out a demon by name and the result is that a man is set free.
    Demon, what is your name?  Though the power of evil would love to hide in the shadows, even demons have names and are called from darkness to light in Christ.  The devil appears to be anonymous to us but he cannot hide behind anonymity before God.  The Lord breaks through all barriers.  Even the demons cannot hide from God’s name or escape His power.  There is no refuge in this world, no place where God cannot see, and no power immune from His power.
    The demon presumes to have the upper hand.  He knows who Jesus is.  He threatens Jesus by exposing Him before the Lord is ready.  He will tell everyone who Jesus even when Jesus says to tell no one.  But Jesus shows His power.  He calls the demon to account.  What is your name?  It is not that Jesus did not know this demon but that Jesus shows His power by forcing the demon to expose his secrets.  Jesus addresses the demon by name and calls him from the person and sends the demon to his destruction.  This is no symbolic story.  God has come to call evil to account.  The Lord has come to address hell with His power.  The demon cannot resist or escape.  Neither can you.
    The Lord knows demons by name but God also knows YOU by name.  All the desires of our sinful hearts and the promise of technology not withstanding, there is no anonymity, no place to hide, nowhere to escape what God is doing.  We are either for Him or against Him, the enemies whom He will vanquish or the forgiven who He will save.  So, sinner, what is YOUR name?
     God has called you from your secret sins, from your fears and loneliness, from your hiding place and anonymity.  He has called you by name in the waters of your baptism.  He knows your sin and has owned that sin upon the cross.  He has marked you as His own, to live under Him in His kingdom now and even forevermore.  You are not a stranger to Him.  He has called you by name.
    His purpose is not to break you or to destroy you but to save you.  In His presence and under His name is grace that forgives the sins of the sinner and restores the fallen by absolution.  God knows our names and calls us by name to save us from our secrets.  He exposes our sin to His light so that the blood of Christ can cover us.  And we walk in the light so that secrets and sins and fear can no longer tempt us or destroy us.  We are His.
    In Christ the anonymous have a name and are called to life by that name.  Though the cemeteries are filled with people who are gone and forgotten, God cannot forget and when He remembers, He delivers the dead to everlasting life.  God has written your names in the Book of Life.  You cannot be forgotten and neither can God forget those who have gone before you and now rest from their labors.  God’s name is our hope and He knows our names so that He might redeem us forever.
    On this day when we remember the earthly vocation of those who would show us the heavenly Father, let us remember that there is no more solemn or sacred duty of a Dad than to teach his children to know the name of the Lord and to pray in the Lord’s name, the Lord’s word, Our Father who art in heaven. . .  This is the only eternal gift a father can give to his children.  Do all other things well but fail in this duty and a Dad has forgotten what ought to be first and foremost.  The child may fall away but give him something to come back to; trust the Spirit to work through the Word.  Speak that Word to them and teach them the only saving name under heaven and on earth.
    We live in a world of fear.  We fear turning on the news.  We lock our doors in fear.  We fear for what may happen to those we love.  We fear the evil that seems to be swallowing up our world.  Where do we turn?"  Do not fear.  God knows the demons by name.  He knows the hiding place of wickedness.  Darkness cannot prevent the Lord from calling evil to account.  God knows the names of all our enemies.  They have no place to hide from Him.  The day is coming when He will imprison the power of forevermore.
    Until then, be not afraid.  God knows YOU by name.  You wear God’s name by baptism and faith.  Your worries rest in the arms of the God who has promised to be your comfort in trouble, your peace in turmoil, and your security in the face of evil.  Do not be afraid.  His Spirit is with you.
    We have a God who calls us by name, who gives us His name so that we may pray to Him, who has promised to hear us in the name of Jesus, and has given us this name to speak boldly in witness before the world.  Do not be afraid.  God is triumphant.  Evil is undone. The demons are exposed.  God has made light to shine in the darkness.  Your names are written in the Book of Life with the ink of Christ’s blood.  You are not alone.  You are not on your own.  God cannot forget you.  His name rests upon you.  Do you fear.  The Lord is with you.  Amen.

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